AG calls GOP lawmaker’s Electoral College comments ‘open sedition’

By: - December 14, 2020 12:58 pm

Rep. Gary Eisen (left) and Attorney General Dana Nessel (right)

Updated, 1:28 p.m., 12/14/20 with new comments from Eisen

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel on Monday said that a state lawmaker’s announcement of a counter event to the state Electoral College meeting that might be violent “can only be described as open sedition.”

Rep. Gary Eisen (R-St. Clair Twp.), a President Trump supporter, said that a counter event “uncharted” in scope would occur in Lansing. He made the comment during an interview on WPHM radio. He did not respond to a Michigan Advance request for comment. 

Eisen said during the interview that fraud occurred during the counting of votes in Detroit, which has not been proven in several court cases. State election results were certified on Nov. 23 by the bipartisan Board of State Canvassers. The Electoral College meets at 2 p.m. at the Capitol to cast votes for Vice President-elect Joe Biden.

“I can’t go into a lot of it,” said Eisen during the interview with host Paul Miller. “I’m on a football team, we have one more play, and am I going to give up or am I going to do that Hail Mary?”

Capitol building closed during Electoral College vote over threats, Detroit elector calls it ‘back to the future’

“Can you assure me that this is going to be a safe day in Lansing, nobody’s going to get hurt?” Miller asked Eisen at the end of an 11-minute interview.

“No,” Eisen responded. “I don’t know because what we’re doing today is uncharted. It hasn’t been done.”

Trump adviser Stephen Miller said on Fox News Monday morning that there were plans for Trump electors to cast ballots in battleground states he lost in spite of the law. The Michigan Republican Party did not respond to a request for comment.

Meanwhile, Nessel promised to uphold the law.  

“We take threats of violence and intimidation seriously – whether they be made by members of the public or public officials – and we will pursue those who violate the law, to the fullest extent possible,” Nessel said.

A little over a half hour before electors were scheduled to meet, Eisen released a statement, but not an apology, stating there was “confusion” over his comments.

“I regret the confusion over my comments this morning, and I want to assure everyone that those of us who are supporting an alternative slate of electors intend to do so peacefully and legally [the elector slate is not legal]. I wanted to attend today’s event to help prevent violence, not promote it. I no longer plan to go to the Capitol with that group today,” Eisen said.

“My comments were meant to reflect that while our group intends to be peaceful, I did not feel I could speak for other groups. Apparently some people are making credible threats of violence today, and I am glad local law enforcement is on the scene preventing any such action and keeping everyone safe. Our group, who will also be at the Capitol today to request to be seated as electors, intends to participate in our democracy peacefully. We are all concerned about safety today and hopeful for a safe, legal and clear process at the Capitol.” *

House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) and incoming Speaker Jason Wentworth (R-Farwell) on Monday denounced violence and removed Eisen from his committee assignments through the end of the term, which ends this year.

“Threats of violence, or a refusal to denounce it, will not be tolerated in the Michigan House,” Chatfield tweeted. “Last week, a Democrat [Rep. Cynthia A, Johnson (D-Detroit)] was removed from her committees. Today, a Republican has been too. We will not condone this behavior. In a Republic, we settle our differences on Election Day.”

“We have been consistent in our position on issues of violence and intimidation in politics – it is never appropriate and never acceptable,” Chatfield added. “That is true of threats or suggestions of violence against Gov. [Gretchen] Whitmer, Secretary [Jocelyn] Benson, Rep. Johnson and others on the Oversight committee, Republicans, Democrats, and members of the Electoral College. That applies to threats made toward public officials, and it must also apply when the public officials open the door to violent behavior and refuse to condemn it. We must do better. We as elected officials must be clear that violence has no place in our democratic process. We must be held to a higher standard.”

Johnson received threats following a House Oversight Committee meeting on the election earlier this month featuring Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani. She responded by posting a Facebook video to her supporters that was edited and several right-wing social media accounts disseminated, claiming she was threatening Trump supporters. 

Chatfield and Wentworth said in announcing Johnson’s removal from committees that “we are looking into further disciplinary action” and added, “Behavior like this will not be tolerated this term or next.”

Biden won Michigan over Trump by more than 154,000 votes. He leads in the Electoral College 306 to 232. In Michigan the Electoral College meeting is scheduled for 2 p.m. At least two Michigan electors told the Michigan Advance on Monday that they are not concerned about talk of harassment by pro-President Donald Trump allies. 

Chris Cracchiolo, a Williamsburg resident and business development director for J. Allan Reynolds, a telecommunications firm based in Farmington Hills. Cracchiolo drove to Lansing on Monday morning and plans to stay overnight. 

“I’ve been in touch with the governor’s office and the state party [Michigan Democratic Party.] I think that they have security under control. … I don’t know what else can be done,” Cracchiolo said. 

He said that he has thought about whether protesters will be in Lansing. 

“I don’t know whether there will be,” Cracchiolo said.

Both Chatfield and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) issued statements this afternoon supporting the Electoral College vote, a highly unusual move during highly unusual times. Both made sure to praise Trump.

“Michigan’s Democratic slate of electors should be able to proceed with their duty, free from threats of violence and intimidation.  President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris won Michigan’s presidential election.  It our responsibility as leaders to follow the law and move forward in pursuit of policies that contribute to the betterment of Michigan,” Shirkey said.

He acknowledged that there” are some who still argue this should not take place, we must recognize that our feelings, our desires, and our disappointments are subordinate to the health of our democracy and the will of the majority.”

Shirkey said that election reforms were necessary and said this is Trump’s legacy, but noted that “we have not received evidence of fraud on a scale that would change the outcome of the election in Michigan.”

Chatfield, however, said, “There were irregularities with this recent election that need more attention. That is why the Legislature, which is the voice of the people, is still looking into those allegations and giving the people their right to speak and be heard at the state Capitol. Our investigation and hearings will continue. Every single instance of fraud should be uncovered and corrected.”

But he added: “I fought hard for President Trump. Nobody wanted him to win more than me. I think he’s done an incredible job. But I love our republic, too. I can’t fathom risking our norms, traditions and institutions to pass a resolution retroactively changing the electors for Trump, simply because some think there may have been enough widespread fraud to give him the win. That’s unprecedented for good reason. And that’s why there is not enough support in the House to cast a new slate of electors. I fear we’d lose our country forever. This truly would bring mutually assured destruction for every future election in regards to the Electoral College. And I can’t stand for that. I won’t.

“I know this isn’t the outcome some want. It isn’t what I want, either. But we have a republic if we can keep it. And I intend to.” 

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Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.